My Blog

Women, books and reading

It’s almost the end of June and my new book will be in the bookshops in a few days. It’s always an exciting but also a nerve wracking time: waiting to see it on the shelves, worrying whether people will like it or be disappointed. But it’s an enormous thrill to stand in a bookshop and see the books lined up and people studying the cover, flicking through the pages and reading the first few lines.

A Month of Sundays is similar to my previous novels in that it is a story about four Month of Sundays coverwomen, four very different women, who are all at some sort of turning point in their lives. In fact, it’s a book about women, books and reading – my three favourite things – oh and of course it’s about getting old, so actually my four favourite things!   But it’s also different from some of my other novels because usually the characters move around quite a bit, but in this one they’re heading from their homes in different parts of Australia, to a beautiful house in the Blue Mountains where they will meet each other face-to face for the first time.

Ros, Adele, Simone and Judy are the last surviving members of an online book club. They’ve talked books once a month on Skype for years but never met in person. Now Adele has been offered the use of a gorgeous house in the mountains and she’s asked the others to join her. It’s a bit of a risk for all of them; the book club has been their comfort zone, and now they’re going to test that pleasant but slightly awkward connection by living together for a month. And there’s a challenge; each one has to bring a book that will tell the others more about her. Will their club survive the proximity, or will they walk away from it having lost something that’s become special to all of them? Well I’m not going to tell you too much more about that! But I will tell you why I decided to write this.

I’ve always felt that women have a special connection to books, we buy and read more books than most men and we seem to be deeply attached to them, especially to novels written by women. In the past when women were excluded from public discourse, when they were confined at home, and their friendships were viewed with suspicion, they learned about each other through novels, particularly those written by women. For writers it was a way to reach out to others, and for readers a way to see their own lives and others through the characters. They saw that the way they felt, the things they longed for or wanted to rid themselves of, their strengths and weaknesses, their anxiety and loneliness, their pleasures and satisfactions, even their resentments, were not peculiar to them. They learned that they were not alone. I’m fascinated by the connections between women and their books, and I’ve been working for some time on a non-fiction book about it, but I keep getting in a mess with it, putting it aside for a while and going back to it again, and again. I thought that writing a novel might help me to work out what I’m trying to do.

I’m also interested in book clubs: the sheer number and diversity of them, the fact that it is predominantly women who set them up and attend regularly, and how significant they are to the members. And I very much admire the discipline that makes people commit to read a book chosen by someone else, on a regular basis. I am such a picky reader and always have a stack of books that I’ve chosen and that I’m dying to read, so while I do read books recommended by friends, I don’t have the discipline to stick with them if I don’t like them after the first two or three chapters. I enjoy talking books informally with friends, but I just don’t have the discipline for a club.

So, what I set out to do in A Month of Sundays was to put four strong minded women in their late sixties and seventies together in a house together for a few weeks and see what happened. It didn’t turn out as I anticipated, but then it never does. Oh! By the way, I forgot to mention, that there is fifth member of this book club – a cocker spaniel called Clooney. He doesn’t do a lot of reading, but he does stir things up from time to time. So it’s not just four but five of my favourite things: women, books, reading, getting old and dogs! I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Win a copy of my new book

A Month of Sundays will be in the bookshops next Tuesday, and to celebrate I’m giving away 6 signed copies.

To be eligible for the competition you need to follow my blog…. either as an existing follower or by joining it now.  To join, just go to my website and enter your email in the “Follow my Blog” field on the left side of any webpage, and click on the black “FOLLOW” button.

If you already follow the blog – go to the Contact page of my website and fill out the form, putting the words “Month of Sundays” into the comment field. Please also include your name in the contact field.

One entry per person please –duplicate entries will be removed!

The competition closes at 4pm on Sunday 24 June. Six winners will be chosen at random and their names will be published on my Facebook page and blog. The winners will be contacted by email so they can provide their postal addresses. The quicker you respond, the quicker you will receive your prize in the post.

While you are entering the competition, I hope you enjoy the new look website.

Good luck!

Month of Sundays cover

Join me for morning tea

Just letting you know about the event to launch my new book A Month of Sundays on Wednesday 4 July at the Parmelia Hilton Perth.  I’m really looking forward to chatting with Meri Fatin about the book – and of course to enjoying the delicious morning tea that the Hilton always puts on. Thank you in advance to Ann Poublon from Dymocks Garden City who not only organises great book events, but does so much to support Western Australian writers.

All the details of the event are below.  I know the tickets are selling fast so if you are interested, book soon.  I hope to see you at the Hilton.

hilton morning tea 2018

 

A Month of Sundays

Well here it is at last! The gorgeous cover of my new book, A Month of Sundays, I am so thrilled with it – I’ve never had an interior shot on a cover before and this one absolutely hits the spot.

Month of Sundays coverA Month of Sundays is about four women of a certain age: Ros, Adele, Judy and Simone, who all live in different locations in Australia. They are the remaining members of an on-line book club, and have met at a distance once a month for several years but never face to face. When Adele is invited to house-sit for a few weeks in the Blue Mountains she invites the other three to join her. It’s a chance to meet at last, in a beautiful location: to relax, read and talk about books, and each one must choose a book through which the others will get to know her better. As they head for the hills and meet for the first time each one is facing a turning point, and wondering too, whether several weeks under the same roof will make or break their tenuous book club connection.

For a long time I’ve been trying to write a non-fiction book about women and reading. I keep running out of time, and finding I’m not really sure what I want to say or how to say it. I thought that perhaps writing a novel about women and reading might help me get a better grip on it. So I hope you’ll enjoy A Month of Sundays, and that if you are in a book club, or you like sharing your books and talking about them with friends, you’ll feel it reflects that special reading connection which is so significant for so many of us.

A Month of Sundays will be available in the books shops from 26th June, and if you want you can also order it in advance from your favourite bookseller.

Closer to the release date I will be running a competition and giving away some copies of A Month of Sundays. So stay tuned!

And the winners are…

Thank you to everyone who entered my Mother’s Day competition. Our two winners are Sherrill Christensen and Veronica Kerr. Congratulations, an email has gone out to you both so you can choose your books for me to post to you. I do hope you enjoy reading them.

To all readers of my blog I would like to say thank you for your continuing loyalty and messages. I’m really pleased to know how much you are looking forward to the new book. I will tell you more in a new blog coming soon– so stay tuned!

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Mother’s Day Competition

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I’m pleased to announce another competition – just in time to celebrate Mother’s Day.  I will be giving away a bundle of four signed copies of my books to two readers. But this time you can select which books you would like to receive! You can choose from the books shown in the photograph above. There are more details on each of those books on my website.

To enter the competition all you need to do is follow my blog, either as an existing follower or by joining it now.  To join just go to my website and enter your email in the “Follow blog by email” field at the foot of any webpage, and click the “follow me” button.

If you already follow the blog – go to the Contact page of my website and fill out the form, putting the words “Mother’s Day Competition” into the comment field.

Two winners will be chosen at random and both names will be published on my Facebook page and blog. The winners will also be contacted by email so they can nominate which four books they would like to receive, and provide their postal addresses.

The competition closes at 4pm on Friday 11 May.  Good luck!

“Sixty is the New Forty.” Oh Really?

Remember when we were told ‘sixty is the new forty’? I’ve been searching Google to find who first said this and when; no luck so far.  But it seems that a lot of people, politicians, medical experts, health gurus, lifestyle writers, statisticians and commentators on everything from ageing to banking, business and financial management have circulated it.  I saw it first as a newspaper headline alongside a photograph of then Treasurer Peter Costello wearing a wide grin.  I haven’t been able to identify the date or the year, or whether Costello was the first to suggest this, but I believe it was some time in 2007.

Back then I was in my early sixties and standing in the queue in the local newsagent. ‘What rubbish,’ I said, intending to talk to myself, but it sort of fell out of my mouth!

‘In your dreams eh!’ said a voice behind me.  I turned to see a man of similar age or a little older.  We both burst out laughing.  Before we reached the counter we had agreed that while people today look younger than most of those in the past looked in their sixties, and we are largely healthier, and many of us more fortunate than previous generations in their sixties, there are profound differences between those times of life.

I’m now seventy-four and I thought of this recently, after I’d bumped into a lovely woman whom I hadn’t seen for at least six months, and whose name I couldn’t remember.

‘How are you?’ she asked. ‘You look fantastic.’

She complimented me on my skin, my hair the fact that she could see that I had lost a few kilos. She was looking terrific too, I told her.  She always looks slim and fit, has a flawless complexion and long glossy hair.  We talked briefly about age, and I mentioned that while I am well and enjoying being in my seventies, I’m concerned that my memory constantly lets me down.

‘Oh but that’s normal,’ she said. ‘We all do it I’m fifty-two and I’m always forgetting stuff – like where I left my keys or my sunglasses and sometimes I can’t remember people’s names.’

I was still trying desperately to remember her name!

‘You look so young,’ she continued. ‘And just remember,’ she said, ‘seventy is the new fifty now!’

So often judgements about age are made on the basis of their faces.  I should have told her to look at my hands (see photo), a far more effective way of seeing the reality of age.

We all know that these days it’s entirely possible for someone in their seventies to look a couple of decades younger. But most of know that by the time we reached the sixties and seventies we have grown in many ways. No! Not diminished, simply changed. We’re still who we’ve always been, but we are also different.

The difference between the fifties and the seventies is vast ravine and many of us who have crossed it think that the difference has a lot going for it.  There is so much to enjoy, many new challenges and new possibilities to explore, and for many of us there is more time. Of course there are disadvantages in many respects but that’s true of any time of life. For me, as for many others, youth and middle age were not spectacular. Since I turned sixty all sorts of aspects of my life have changed for the better. And the difference lies in how we feel about ourselves.  I wouldn’t go back to my fifties for quids.

My memory is terrible now, not just in the way it used to be, not just because we are all overloaded with new stuff to take in, learn and remember, but because I’m old. I am still trying to remember that lovely woman’s name, and it’s a couple of months since that day. Things that I could once quickly recall: where I left my keys, the date of my grandchildren’s birthdays, titles of books or movies that I’ve watched or read quite recently might take days, or weeks to resurface. Some seem lost forever.

I am less physically confident, but far more confident about who I am. There are so many changes in two decades, some annoying and disappointing but many more that are splendid. What matters is whether we accept the changes, own them, or try constantly to grasp at who we once were, and what we used to have and want. There’s a profound difference between accepting reality and the idea of ‘giving in’ or ‘giving up’. It’s about taking stock of who we are instead of pretending we’re someone we used to be.

As I turned seventy I realised that I actually felt different. I could relax into being who I really was, give up the struggle to look younger, give up pressuring myself to always prove my competence, to be always positive for other people. I began to believe in myself and to believe that myself was okay. I gave up wearing uncomfortable shoes and clothes, I stopped pretending I like parties or being with large groups of people, I avoided going anywhere after dark if I had to drive. I also started to take greater responsibility for my health, exercising more, cutting out processed foods. I began to reduce the stress in my life created by the conflicting demands of having two jobs. I made myself learn to be at home without working all the time. To have weekends at home alone, when I did no work at all.

But perhaps most important of all, I began to accept death as a reality. I stopped worrying about it, and started to plan for older age and for death itself. I thought a lot about the people I’ve known who died in their youth or middle age, and yes, certainly many in their seventies. I knew I was lucky to still be here, let alone still working and reasonably healthy. I may live to be older than my parents who died in their late eighties, or I may be gone by the time you read this. Who knows? But what I do know for sure is that this precious time of life is nothing like being in my fifties. It’s a whole lot better, and I’m certainly not going to waste a moment of it pretending (especially to myself), that I’m twenty years younger.

Liz's hand